Hamilton takes Jeddah pole as Verstappen crashes

04/12/2021
NEWS STORY

As if it wasn't tense enough, since the end of FP3 the stewards have issued Lewis Hamilton with two summons, one in respect of a waved double yellow infringement a la Max in Qatar, and the other for allegedly impeding Pierre Gasly.

This follows a significant turnaround in fortune in final practice when Max Verstappen set the pace.

While some are claiming Mercedes might have turned their engines down, the fact is that both drivers were struggling to turn on their tyres.

Meanwhile, Red Bull, which suffered yesterday, had no such issues and Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished first and third, with their AlphaTauri buddies fourth and fifth.

As if that wasn't enough, after finding a fuel leak on Valtteri Bottas' car, Mercedes opted to change the Finn's power unit. However, as it was for a unit from his pool there will be no penalty.

Once again, the Ferraris looked strong as did the Alpines, while Aston Martin was clearly struggling.

As feared, traffic is proving to be an issue here, and this combined with the high speed differentials is causing great concern. Indeed, despite the insistence of some TV pundits that 'all is fine', the two incidents involving Hamilton in FP highlight the potential for disaster.

With an eye on traffic, drivers will be keen to secure an early banker lap this evening, particularly in Q1 and Q2 when there are more cars on track.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 28 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32 degrees.

In the minutes before Q1 the stewards announce that no further action will be taken over the yellow flags infringement.

However, as the stewards debate the impeding charge, work continues on Bottas' car which doesn't look as if it is going anywhere, anytime soon.

The lights go green and as expected there is a long queue at the end of the pitlane with Gasly leading the way.

"It's going to be a mess in the last sector," warns Leclerc.

Hamilton is among the first out, joined, unbelievably, by his teammate.

In no time at all, all 20 drivers are on track.

Russell gets things underway with a 30.964.

Norris posts 29.136, but Verstappen responds with a 28.659.

Ricciardo goes third, ahead of Ocon and Giovinazzi as Hamilton makes a mistake in Turn 1.

On a hot lap, the world champion subsequently closes on another driver on a hot lap and has to abort.

Sainz goes third and Bottas fourth, though both are demoted when Perez posts a 29.039 to go second.

Next time around, Hamilton is quickest in S1. He maintains the pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 28.466 to go quickest by 0.193.

A 28.892 sees Gasly go third, while Giovinazzi goes fourth with a 28.945.

Indeed, as the track continues to evolve the order is ever changing, with Norris going second and Ricciardo third.

Bottas goes second (28.526) as Perez drops to tenth.

A 28.554 sees Leclerc go third, only to be demoted when his teammate goes top with a 28.330.

Such is the way the track is evolving, Verstappen has slipped to seventh, as it appears that most will need to make a second run.

On used softs, Verstappen raises the bar with a 28.285.

Bottas goes quickest in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 28.057 to go top.

With 5:20 remaining, both Aston Martins are in the drop zone, as Verstappen complains of a "terrible first sector".

Perez goes quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 28.021, and while Bottas goes quicker in S2 he subsequently aborts the lap.

With 1:15 remaining it's all to play for.

Verstappen goes quickest in S1, going on to post a PB in S2. However, he has to abort the lap in the final sector as he encounters the traffic jam from hell in the final corners.

"I have a misfire," reports Bottas, who then stops at the pitlane entrance.

Ricciardo goes third (28.216) as Sainz goes fourth.

While Giovinazzi goes 13th, both Aston Martins fail to make the cut.

Phew, that was manic.

Quickest is Perez, ahead of Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Gasly, Hamilton and Tsunoda.

"What? Oh man," declares Vettel on hearing he finished 17th.

We lose Latifi, Vettel, Stroll, Schumacher and Mazepin.

As the cars head out for Q2, most are on mediums. Despite his earlier issues Bottas is among the first out.

Perez gets things underway with a 28.861, but Verstappen responds with a 27.953.

Moments later Leclerc splits the Bulls with a 28.612.

Norris goes fourth, ahead of Russell, Raikkonen, Sainz and Hamilton, who posts an exploratory 27.730.

Next time around the world champion posts a 28.715 to go third.

Sainz is the first to have a time deleted after the Spaniard exceeded the track limits at Turn 4. What track limits?

"I don't know what we're doing, I have no grip out here," complains Hamilton.

No sooner has Bottas gone second (28.230), than Perez improves to 28.175.

There's a great cloud of dust thrown up when Sainz spins at Turn 11. As he heads back to the pits you can see the Spaniard has incurred rear wing damage.

Both Alpines are currently in the drop zone, as is Sainz.

As Hamilton improves to second with a 28.068, Perez goes quickest in S1.

As the Mexican goes quickest (27.946), Norris, currently 12th, is the first to blink and switch to softs.

Russell improves to 12th as Tsunoda 5th. Moments later Norris goes seventh with a 28.344. "I got held up," complains the Briton.

Meanwhile the stewards are to investigate a Q1 incident involving Gasly and Sainz.

As Hamilton posts a PB in S1, Verstappen heads out on fresh softs.

With insufficient time to fit a new rear wing, Sainz' existing version is given a hasty repair. Back on track the Spaniard does well to avoid a nasty incident as he tries to improve.

A late improvement sees Giovinazzi go 10th and Ocon 9th, while Hamilton improves to 27.712.

While Sainz fails to post a significant time, both Alfa drivers are involved in late incident. Raikkonen touches the Mercedes of Bottas, while teammate Giovinazzi gives the wall a clout with his rear wing.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Perez, Verstappen, Bottas, Tsunoda, Gasly, Norris, Leclerc, Ocon and Giovinazzi.

We lose Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Alonso, Russell and Sainz.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Jeddah, here.

The Mercedes pair are first out for Q3, as it looks as if Red Bull might protest one of the stewards decisions relating to Hamilton.

Hamilton begins his first flyer but aborts following an early mistake.

No such issues for Bottas who crosses the line at 28.143, albeit off the pace compared to Q2 and Q1.

Leclerc goes second with a 28.481 but is demoted by Tsunoda (28.442).

A PB in S1 is followed by a purple in S2 as Hamilton crosses the line at 28.035 to go quickest.

However, Verstappen is quickest in S1, with teammate Perez also setting a strong pace. Verstappen maintains his pace in S2, crossing the line at 27.653 to go quickest by 0.382.

Perez goes third with a 28.128, but is demoted when Bottas responds with a 27.974 having posted PBs in all three sectors.

"I need a tow," says Verstappen as Hamilton complains of understeer.

As Verstappen heads out for his final run, Perez is warned that he's "over-pushing the entry to Turn 4".

A PB is S1 for Hamilton, while Perez remains fourth.

Hamilton goes quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 27.511 to take provisional pole.

With 00:50 remaining, Verstappen begins his final lap, as does Bottas.

The Dutchman goes quickest in S1 while Bottas posts a PB. Verstappen maintains the pace in S2. Bottas claims second with a 27.622 but it's disaster for Verstappen as he clouts the wall at the final corner.

That would have been a monumental lap but for the youngster pushing too hard at the final corner. He clouts the wall with his right front and rear.

So, Hamilton has pole, ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly, Norris, Tsunoda, Ocon and Giovinazzi.

Talk about turnarounds, just as Verstappen appeared to have it, Mercedes locks-out the front row.

Meanwhile, the Dutchman faces an agonising wait to discover what damage has been done to his car and whether it will mean a penalty.

So, Hamilton is on pole, ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly, Norris, Tsunoda, Ocon and Giovinazzi.

Ricciardo will start eleventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Alonso, Russell, Sainz, Latifi, Vettel, Stroll, Schumacher and Mazepin.

"It feels terrible," admits Verstappen in the post-qualifying track talk, "we were having a good qualifying, I knew the pace was there. I locked up and I still trying to push, to finish the lap.

"P3 is disappointing knowing the lap I was on. At least it shows the car is quick."

Asked if he will require a new gearbox, he replies: "I don't know."

"I had a struggle in FP3, and I needed a new engine," adds Bottas. "But in qualifying all was working fine, so happy.

"The last lap was on the limit," he adds. "The track is tough. We need to focus on team championship and Lewis."

"What a tough track this is," laughs Hamilton. "Through FP3 and qualifying I was lacking pace, struggling with the tyres, so for us to get a 1-2 is incredible.

"We've worked so hard," he continues. "The collaboration has been epic with Valtteri, he's the best of team mates. Those guys were so fast. They were rapid today."

If the race is even half as thrilling as those final moments, we should be in for a classic.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Jeddah, here.

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Published: 04/12/2021
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